Volvo 244 DL Jubilee Edition | The Brave Pill

The most special of special editions?

By Mike Duff / Saturday, 4 June 2022 / Loading comments

Britain’s car dealers have rarely required more than a scant excuse to get the pinstripes out for a limited edition model. This is the country that came up with such sticker specials as the Ford Fiesta Meridian, named after an ITV region; the Ford Escort Bonus 90, named after a year – and the Nissan Micra Wave, named after a 750W kitchen appliance. All of which were tarted-up base models with modest supplements on their price tags. Don’t worry, this week’s Pill is classier than that.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee inspired a hunt through the classifieds to hunt out an appropriate Pill for the elongated weekend. The search was inspired in part by memories of the MGB Jubilee, a gold-and-green limited edition that was created in 1975 to celebrate 50 years of MG. We didn’t find one of those, but we did discover something even better: behold the Volvo 244 Jubilee Edition. Yes, it was constructed to mark Volvo’s 50th anniversary rather than Her Majesty’s 25th year on the throne, but it was also produced in 1977, the year of the diamond jubilee, so seems entirely appropriate here. You’ll just need to imagine the Sex Pistols soundtrack.

To the mild surprise of the database hamster, this isn’t the first Volvo Brave Pill, a V8-powered XC90 having got the nod back in March last year. Against which this 244 DL might look like a much more timid choice; the toughness of old Volvos is so legendary it seems likely the cockroaches will be driving around in them after the world-ending nuclear apocalypse. Yet this is a 45-year-old car which seems to have spent much of its life off the road and, although it looks in decent nick, it is still going to be encountering the many issues of late middle age, from corporeal corrosion to the strong possibility of unexpected puddles.

At a Volvo media event a few years ago the company rolled out pretty much all of its heritage collection. I got to experience both a mid-60s Volvo 144 and an early-90s Volvo 240 on the test track at the Gothenberg HQ. My not especially revelatory revelation was that they drove pretty much the same, the newer car’s power steering and chunky headrests the most obvious difference between them. Prior to the arrival of front-wheel drive, the company’s product portfolio evolved at the same rate rocks do. 

But for sheer dependability, nothing else came close. When I was in college a friend’s father had a Volvo 740 estate in such boggo basic spec it lacked central locking or an FM stereo, and had a four-speed manual gearbox with the novelty of an overdrive switch on top of the selector. The dad was an antique dealer who specialised in big clocks – hence the need for a wagon – and who travelled around Europe buying and selling his wares. This meant the Volvo had racked up a huge odometer score without complaint, it was the first 300,000 mile car I encountered, a figure that seemed utterly impossible at the time. Yet once it retired from globetrotting it went onto have an equally tough second life being driven by a horse vet in mid Wales. I can’t remember the reg, so it may well still be trucking on somewhere. 

Other European manufacturers moved to the brash American idea of short model cycles and frequent facelifts in the 1970s, but Volvo just was. The 200 series was introduced in 1975 and the final examples were built in 1993. Beyond revised headlights and various safety tweaks it barely changed over those two decades, with the big-torque, low-rev four cylinder engines that powered almost all UK-bound examples gaining fuel injection and emissions control – who remembers the ‘Lambda Sond’ badging? – but never getting any enthusiasm for life beyond plodding.

But in 1977 Volvo opted to celebrate its first half century in hedonistic, hair-down style. Just kidding, they opted for a special edition featuring the daring combination of metallic silver paint with a black and gold band around the car’s waistline. There don’t seem to have been any other mechanical changes for what was officially called the 244 DL Jubileum, although a similar reworking of the brawnier V6-powered 264 was sold in some parts of the world.

Although sensible on the outside there is a bit of a party going on in the Jubilee Edition’s cabin with inviting looking blue velour seats and what seems to be an original 8-Track stereo. Despite this it keeps the basic 244’s dial deficient dashboard, this including an obvious blanking plate where grander Ovlovs had rev counters. The ‘Brake Failure’ warning light is another fine piece of Swedish literal mindedness; one you definitely don’t want to see illuminated.

While the Jubilee being marked was Volvo’s rather than the Queen’s, it seems likely that Volvo’s British dealers saw little reason to labour the distinction; patriotic customers doubtless played a part in what seems to have been very modest sales success. T’internet reckons that around 50 244 Jubilee Editions were sold around the world, with the Oxfordshire dealer offering our Pill claiming it is one of five still in existence.

Our Pill looks to be in generally smart nick, and while the vendor reckons it has never had any new paint they also admit it is sporting a bit of patina, aka noticeable wear. While the advert’s promise of Teutonic build quality is likely wide of the mark – unless a roving band of Germanic knights ended up working in the Swedish car industry – it really does look to have arrived straight from the late 1970s in the pictures. The online MOT history is limited to three passes in 2017, 2018 and 2020, seemingly when it came out of a long hibernation, and all recorded without any advisories, but the picture of the dashboard suggests the car hasn’t done any mileage since the most recent of these. It is old enough to be MOT exempt and have free tax.

More controversial is likely to be the £POA price tag, making it impossible to comment with any certainty on the level of value being offered. The dealer certainly seems to have the market in right-hand drive 244 Jubilee Editions safely cornered, but the unanswered question is how much demand is out there for this very limited supply. The sheer persistence of old Volvos means there are still plenty of non-limited editions available, and although values for the stylish Amazon and P1800 coupe have been climbing, the earlier, boxier examples still seem to be in the doldrums. 

If the seller of this week’s Pill is hoping to catch a Jubilee-happy Volvo lover over the weekend then there isn’t much time left. 


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